On Market Street

by Penelope Houston

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about

Now I know my star may hang a little lower
My voice is ragged and my coat is far from new
But like the shimmer of a Caroliner rainbow
Between the cracks the light is coming through

From the anthem "If You're Willing" these lyrics bring hope to everyone who has anticipated the next Penelope Houston album. On Market Street celebrates the musical re-emergence of a unique creative voice.

The seeds for this album were planted in October 2004. Bush was about to be re-elected. The Duelfer Report found no WMDs in Iraq. At the Hotel Atlantic around the corner from Hamburg's Knust club, Penelope was supporting the release of The Pale Green Girl, on a tour that became a respite from a poisoned marriage. As she watched the light of dawn breaking, words and music rose up in her mind like an apparition. "If you're Willing" signaled a new chapter for her, telling the story of the need for freedom and self-expression in both personal and political life. In the weeks that followed a tumultuous mix of desire, betrayal, guilt, and heartbreak inspired the kernels of many more songs.

Penelope's next years were momentous – divorce, independence, a notable lawsuit involving her proto-punk band the Avengers, a return to university, and nine Avengers tours. Throughout this intense period she continued to sharpen her message in songs that demanded declaration. Finally on a summer break Penelope booked time at the San Francisco Bay Area's prestigious Fantasy Studios (home to major artists from Sonny Rollins to Green Day to Joanna Newsom). Here she gathered a team of studio veterans familiar with her vision, and On Market Street was born.

Penelope and her co-producer Jeffrey Wood (Housemartins, Luka Bloom, Giant Sand) worked closely with longtime collaborator and guitarist, Pat Johnson, to shape these personal songs into epic musical narratives. With the rock solid foundation of drummer Dawn Richardson (4 Non-Blondes, Tracy Chapman) and the gilding Hammond B3 organ of Danny Eisenberg (Tift Merritt, Ryan Adams, Jonathan Richman), they created a sweeping backdrop for "If You're Willing," "You Reel Me In," "Missouri Lounge" and Johnson's hymn to forgiveness "Come Back to the Fountain." These tracks make up On Market Street's folk-rock backbone with natural reflections of The Band, Let it Bleed-era Stones, and an Americana edge recalling Lucinda Williams by way of Memphis.

Stepping a little to the left of the familiar, Penelope enlisted the stalwart Steven Strauss to compose Van Dyke Parks-ian string quartet parts (led by Julian Smedley who has played with Vivian Stanshall, Anthony Braxton, and Dan Hicks) to burnish the poignant "Meet Me in France" and "Winter Coats." Strauss, unafraid of Penelope's sometimes-unorthodox musical structures, adds grace to these dark, poetic and complex heartbreakers. It's not all gloom and doom, though. Giving us some lighter moments are the frisky "Scrap" and "USSA," a humorous wordplay on Cold War era consumerism.

Just two days prior to entering the studio, Penelope composed her most moving ballad of social injustice, the title track "On Market Street." Bare and haunting with an eerie bed of Mellotron, the song spotlights her voice, now life-honed to an instrument of strength and fragility. When asked about her decade-long work at San Francisco's inner-city library, Penelope told Devoted Ruins, "My contacts with people living downtown on Market St. have made me examine the ideals and beliefs of our society, our religions. I'm voicing the questions anyone would ask of a just God, if their eyes are open." The circle – started seven years ago with "If You're Willing" – was suddenly complete.

In your cobbled streets and in your alleyways
I'm singing to the breaking dawn
And if you're willing to die a little
You'll hear my song

Lush and literate On Market Street is the ultimate Penelope Houston album, a pinnacle of songwriting, performance, and fidelity that secures her place in the hearts of her fans and music lovers around the world.

credits

released 27 January 2012
Penelope Houston: vocals
Pat Johnson: lead guitar, backing vocals
Michael Papenburg: guitar
Dawn Richardson: drums and percussion
Danny Eisenberg: Hammond and Wurlitzer
Alec Palao: bass on tracks 1-3, 7, 10, 11
Steven Strauss: bass on tracks 4-6, 8, 9

Jeffrey Wood: Mellotron on track 4
Julian Smedley: violin
Benito Cortez: violin
Katrina Wreede: viola
Marcie Brown: cello

Produced by Jeffrey Wood and Penelope Houston
Recorded by Adam Muñoz and Jeffrey Wood
Mixed by Adam Muñoz
Additional engineer Alberto Hernandez
String arrangements written by Steven Strauss
Recorded & mixed at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
Mastered at Ken Lee Mastering, Oakland, CA
Art and design Penelope Houston
Insert Photo Ethan Hill

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Track Name: All the Way
If you won’t let me break your heart
Then I don’t want to be with you
If you won’t let me take apart
The thin façade you’re looking through
You’d better run away
You’d better run away, boy
You’d better run away
You’d better run away, boy

And you don’t share your wounded heart
‘Cause you don’t have too much to give
You won’t promise me an hour
Who knows how long you have to live
You’d better run away
You’d better run away, boy
You’d better run away
You’d better run away, boy

‘Cause I just want to kiss you
Just want to hold you
Just want to crush you
Just want to know you
All the way
All the way, boy
All the way
All the way, boy

If you take my broken heart
And squeeze it just a little bit
I bet your fingers and my bruises
Are gonna make a perfect fit
You’d better run away
You’d better run away, boy
You’d better run away
You’d better run away, boy

‘Cause I just want to kiss you
Just want to hold you
Just want to crush you
Just want to know you
All the way
All the way, boy
All the way
All the way, boy
Track Name: Missouri Lounge
When I heard you were in town
I was drinking in the blue Missouri Lounge
Although I knew that it was wrong
I couldn’t help myself I had to play our song

Somebody else lies in your arms
Someone is raking in your money and your charms
Drinking wine in a fine hotel
You stroll the boulevards we used to love so well

And if you walk down our old street
You’ll say I’ve fallen pretty low
But don’t you reach your heart to me
Back to you is not a place I’ll ever go

Maybe New York or to LA
It makes me glad to know you’re living far away
Cause on this day, the day we wed
I’m taking comfort in another stranger’s bed

oh oh oh
oh oh oh
oh oh oh
Taking comfort in another stranger’s bed

Now you drop by Missouri Lounge
To find me crying on the floor
Then you reach down your saintly hand
But Baby, you can’t be my savior anymore

And on and on that jukebox plays
I’d be happy if I’d never seen your face
If stones can cry, and numbers lie
I’ve got whiskey for the way I feel tonight
I’ve got whiskey for the way I feel tonight

If you should walk down our old street
You’ll say I’ve fallen pretty low
But don’t you reach your heart to me
Back to you is not a place I’ll ever go

Maybe New York or to LA
It makes me glad to know you’re living far away
Cause on this day, the day we wed
I’m taking comfort in another stranger’s bed
Track Name: You Reel Me In
Once I ran off
Like a virgin to the altar
With flowers in my hair I walked
Like a little lamb to slaughter
Like the baby pig they fed me
Just to make me fatter
Come Sunday at dinner time
See me stretched out on a platter

They reeled me in
They reeled me in
With the sweet old words that never fail
He reeled me in
He reeled me in
Promising marriage, he delivered me to jail

I was all set up
In my pretty little prison
I had years to think about
The flaws in my decision
I was ready for the moment
When the door would be left open
You crossed my path right then
Maybe more than I was hoping

You reel me in
You reel me in
Who placed the hooks? Who handed you the strings
You reel me in
You reel me in
Piercing my heart like a hundred rings

Dug my way out of that prison
But I’m still down on all fours
My closest friends tell me
That they see his face in yours
If I had the time back
And the ten years to live over
Would I pick flowers for my hair
Would I still roll in the clover
Should I harden my heart
Should I tear out all those rings
If you’re walking away from me, boy
You’ve got to let go of the strings

You reel me in
You reel me in
With the sweet old words that never fail
You reel me in
You reel me in
Promise some kind of love, now you’re driving in the nail
You reel me in
You reel me in
Who placed the hooks?
Who handed you the strings
You reel me in
You reel me in
Piercing my heart like a hundred rings

If you’re walking away from me, boy
You’ve got to let go of the strings
Track Name: On Market Street
This is for the wastrel
Invisible and shamed
Down on his knees on Market Street
His sickness is unnamed
Through the rain he genuflects
His pilgrimage is real
The shoppers with their Christmas lists
Go round him where he kneels

And if your faith is true
And if your faith is strong
You’ll enjoy the freedom from choosing right from wrong
And if your God is great
And if your God is good
He would live on Market Street, not in Hollywood

This is for the poor young girl
With her helpless child
Down on her knees on Market Street
For a little while
She needs the cash to swaddle him
Feed his hungry eyes
Maybe enough to buy a room
But she still needs to fly

Chorus

Little old babushka at
Golden Gate and Hyde
She’s too proud for begging but
Tears are in her eyes
A pair of crystal glasses lie
In her withered hands
She offers these and blessings
I pay her all I can

And if your faith is true
And if your faith is strong
You enjoy the freedom from choosing right from wrong
And if your God is great
And if your God is good
He would live on Market Street, not in Hollywood
And if your God is good
And if your God is great
He would live on Market Street
Near Hyde and Golden Gate
Track Name: Scrap
I used to think you loved me
I was wrong, wrong, wrong
Couldn’t live without me
Now you’re gone, gone, gone

Well, thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot
Thanks for throwing me a scrap

Well, thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot
Thanks for throwing me a scrap

I really loved you, baby
Don’t know why, why, why
Always drove me crazy
And I’d cry, cry, cry

Well, thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot
Thanks for throwing me a scrap

Well, thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot
Thanks for throwing me a scrap

I used to think I loved you
Now you’re gone, gone, gone
Couldn’t live without you
I was wrong, wrong, wrong

Well, thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot
Thanks for throwing me a scrap

Well, thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot, thanks for nothing
Thanks a lot
Thanks for throwing me a scrap
Track Name: Come Back to the Fountain
It only takes two people talking
To break the silence they create
Laughter ringing in the ruins
The fountain flows again

You know you look just like a stranger
It's been so long- you've been away
But you're the one that I remember
From endless summer days

How many times have I called your name
And how many times have I cried in vain?

Come back, come back, come back
come back to the fountain
When you've seen every ocean and mountain
Come back, come back, come back
come back to the fountain
When you've seen every ocean and mountain
Come back my rambling boy


So if you want to tell the story
Of two people in a room
Someplace you won't be returning- tell it to the moon.

But if you want to know the answer
To the question: Was I true?
Taste the water from the fountain
That flows so pure and cool

How many times have I called your name
And how many times have I cried in vain?

Come back, come back, come back
come back to the fountain
When you've seen every ocean and mountain
Come back, come back, come back
come back to the fountain
When you've seen every ocean and mountain
Come back my rambling boy
Track Name: Winter Coats
Kissing you
Feels like falling from grace
And I was so drunk
I could barely taste
Tequila and beer
The longing and fear
Of the terrible word
On the thick of your tongue

The shimmer of sex
Comes down like a bell jar
To silence the world
The crystalline world
The arc of the stars
Shine frozen above us
Lighting the tear in
The banner unfurled

Icy clouds bloom
From the heat of your mouth
The crunching of frozen grass
As we stumble to safety
Drunken and numb
But sharp as the air
Can our pounding hearts wake
The good farmers sleeping there?

The shimmer of sex
Comes down like a bell jar
To silence the world
The crystalline world
The arc of the stars
Shine frozen above us
Lighting the tear in
The banner unfurled

All I could feel
Was the heat and desire
And that you would have taken me
Blackened by fire
In our thick winter coats
In the hour before dawn
We wrestled with demons
And I let you crawl away

The shimmer of sex
Comes down like a bell jar
To silence the world
The crystalline world
The arc of the stars
Shine frozen above us
Lighting the tear in
The banner unfurled
Track Name: Dead Girl
You fell in love with a dead girl
Her photographs are strewn across our bed
Her image fills your eyes and you cannot see
What’s growing in the part of me once dead

Oh, you fell in love with a dead girl
Her ashes long ago sunk in the sea
Her melodies and words are like a whirlpool
Dragging you down a mystery

And I won’t be the lock on your cage
And I can’t be the ink on your page
These words are not the words from your heart
The ice is melting and breaking us apart

You fell in love with a dead girl
Her photographs are strewn across our bed
Her image fills your eyes and you cannot see
What’s growing in the part of me once dead

And I won’t be the lock on your cage
And I can’t be the ink on your page
These words are not the words of your heart
The ice is melting and breaking us apart

You fell in love with a dead girl
Her ashes long ago sunk in the sea
Her melodies and words are like a whirlpool
Dragging you down a mystery

And I won’t be the lock on your cage
And I can’t be the ink on your page
These words are not the words from your heart
The ice is melting and breaking us apart
melting and breaking us apart
melting and breaking us apart
melting and breaking us apart
Track Name: Meet Me in France
Meet me in France and we’ll drink in the light
Picasso had captured in a stroke of white
We’ll drink in the evening, we’ll drink in the night
To drown all the words of our final fight

And tomorrow the lovers will flock to the sea
Murmuring sweet words of ecstasy
The edge of their blankets will touch in a shroud
Shading the buried dream of you and me

Meet me in France and we’ll dig a shallow grave
For this ill-fated love that we could not save
Meet me in Nice and we’ll pull aside the rocks
To bury our shame by the azure wave

And tomorrow the lovers will flock to the sea
Murmuring sweet words of ecstasy
The edge of their blankets will touch in a shroud
Shading the buried dream of you and me

Why the Hell do you come all this way?
To mouth the words that you can not say
With lips that should brush my ear in a kiss
And echo my songs of trembling bliss

Why the Hell would you come this far?
To freeze in the light of my shooting star
Our hearts have blinded us both, I guess
But I saw more and you saw less

Meet me in France and we’ll dig a shallow grave
For this premature love that we could not save
Meet me in Nice and we’ll pull aside the rocks
To bury our shame by the azure wave

Meet me in France where the shimmering air
Will be sucked from our lungs by your constant fear
I realize now we should have dug the grave deeper
I can still hear the moan I can still hear the whimper

And tomorrow the lovers will flock to the sea
Murmuring sweet words of ecstasy
The edge of their blankets will touch in a shroud
Shading the buried dream of you and me
Track Name: If You're Willing
Now I know my star may hang a little lower
My voice is ragged and my coat is far from new
But like the shimmer of a Caroliner rainbow
Between the cracks the light is coming through

And in your cobbled streets
And in your alleyways
I’m singing to the breaking dawn
And if you’re willing
To die a little
You’ll hear my song
You’ll hear my song

Now I don’t think my heart can bear another love song
For the silver tongued swordsman by the door
No longer can his promises compel me
To choose between the angel and the whore

And in your cobbled streets
And in your alleyways
I’m singing to the breaking dawn
And if you’re willing
To die a little
You’ll hear my song
You’ll hear my song

Still I see the degradation and injustice
But my words are not so righteous anymore
No love of God can justify the killing
And reason never leads us into war

And in your cobbled streets
And in your alleyways
I’m singing to the breaking dawn
And if you’re willing
To die a little
You’ll hear my song
You’ll hear my song
Track Name: USSA
Got up this morning with a smile on my face
I’m going to work to do the best that I can
Sun is shining all over the place
It's shining on my Chevy, my TV, my tan

Living in the USSA
People are happy now
That's what they say
I read it in the USSA Today

Going down the steppes to get a pack of camels
Bottle of Stoli, a steak, and a beer
Come Saturday morning gonna pull those weeds up
Toss the pigskin with Vladimir

Living in the USSA
People are happy now
That's what they say
I read it in the USSA Today

Full color photographs explain it all to me
Happiness is only seeing what you want to see
Pictures of people with movie star smiles
Standing next to new cars
Make it all seem so worthwhile

Lighting the coals for my BBQ dinner
Ice-cream truck is coming down the street
Check your receipt ‘cause you may be a winner
Making a wish on your rabbit's feet

Living in the USSA
People Are happy now
That's what they say
I read it in the USSA Today

Living in the USSA
People Are happy now
That's what they say
I read it in the USSA Today
Track Name: If You're Willing - Live on KPFA
words and music by Penelope Houston
© 2012 Doctor PP Music (BMI)
lyrics
Now I know my star may hang a little lower
My voice is ragged and my coat is far from new
But like the shimmer of a Caroliner rainbow
Between the cracks the light is coming through

And in your cobbled streets
And in your alleyways
I’m singing to the breaking dawn
And if you’re willing
To die a little
You’ll hear my song
You’ll hear my song

Now I don’t think my heart can bear another love song
For the silver tongued swordsman by the door
No longer can his promises compel me
To choose between the angel and the whore

And in your cobbled streets
And in your alleyways
I’m singing to the breaking dawn
And if you’re willing
To die a little
You’ll hear my song
You’ll hear my song

Still I see the degradation and injustice
But my words are not so righteous anymore
No love of God can justify the killing
And reason never leads us into war

And in your cobbled streets
And in your alleyways
I’m singing to the breaking dawn
And if you’re willing
To die a little
You’ll hear my song
You’ll hear my song